| photography by Alex Lepe |
Unlike Vietnamese and Thai, Korean cuisine has yet to make its way into Fort Worth’s mainstream dining scene, but Hoya Korean Kitchen, located in prime downtown real estate in Sundance Square, might help change that.
Opened in January in a former Quiznos, the fast-casual concept comes from the same owner of Dallas’ Little Katana, an upscale sushi and sashimi bar in Highland Park. During weekday lunch, expect a line of hurried downtown business workers ordering customizable Korean bowls and lunch boxes at the counter. At dinner, service starts at the table with a waitress who’ll ask for drink orders. This was a surprise on a recent evening outing as we had become accustomed to placing orders from behind the glass window during previous visits, Chipotle-style, and paying the ticket in advance. But Hoya has made several tweaks lately, both in service and in menu options, that have resulted in the restaurant’s best offerings yet.
The most noticeable adjustment since the eatery’s opening is the temperature of the food. During early weeks in business, dishes were lukewarm at best, including so-called “hot soups,” like ramen and udon noodle. Hoya’s culinary team has thankfully increased the heat, providing piping hot items presented with plumes of billowy steam. Hoya has also forgone wraps, an unspectacular early menu item, and is now sticking to rice and noodle bowls and Korean entrees like beef bulgogi, or grilled marinated beef. Korean tacos are a new menu addition that can come with teriyaki chicken, spicy chicken or pork, or beef barbecue, and the Korean fusion burgers, made with house-ground beef and spicy aioli, are brand new, too.
But one of the restaurant’s most interesting and tastiest items is the traditional bibimbap (starts at $8), a signature Korean dish served in a hot stone bowl and comprised of white rice artfully topped with sautéed vegetables, chili pepper paste, soy sauce, and a sunny side-up egg. Protein additions for the dish include teriyaki and spicy chicken, beef bulgogi, spicy pork, shrimp or crisp tofu. Diners will find bundles of sweetly marinated shredded carrots, sliced zucchini, sautéed mushrooms and bean sprouts, all providing a satisfying mix of textures and flavors.
The yakisoba bowl (starts at $5) is another veggie-heavy dish (mostly cabbage and onions) encompassing thin, fried buckwheat noodles tossed in a sweet soy sauce. We tried ours with beef for a filling dinner, especially when accompanied with steamed edamame ($3), fried mandu ($3), the Korean name for dumplings (these are stuffed with seasoned ground pork and come with a ginger-tinged dipping sauce), and lightly battered shrimp tempura ($8), which came four to an order along with a tempura fried zucchini and carrot wedges.
All entrees at Hoya range from $5-$12, leaving plenty of pocket change for wine, beer, or cold or hot sake, which can be ordered from the expansive covered patio bar during most evenings.
Craft beer selections surprisingly run deep and include local offerings from Panther Island Brewing to imported varieties like Sapporo.
Location: 355 W. 3rd St., Fort Worth, hoyakoreankitchen.com
For Info Call: 817.334.7999
Price Range: $-$$
Hours: Open 7 days a week, 11.a.m. - 10.p.m. happy hour 4.p.m. - 8.p.m.
What We Like: In addition to the delicious proteins, Hoya offers a vast array of textures and flavors in each dish.
Our Recommendation: The bibimbap is a must!